The Fremont Area United Way is looking for funds for its literacy initiative that provides more than 1,000 children in Dodge County with a free book every month.
Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is a book-gifting program that provides books tailored for a child’s specific age. It was founded in 1995 by the country singer and helps almost 850,000 children every year, including 1,100 in Dodge County.
“There’s often a misunderstanding that Dolly Parton pays for those books or is somehow connected to paying for those books, and they are not,” Fremont United Way Executive Director Christy Fiala said. “We purchase from them the books that they recommend, and then we pay to mail those books out to kiddos in Dodge County that are under 5 years old.”
While the United Way typically raises funds through its annual “Hats Off to Literacy” luncheon fundraiser, this year’s 10th event will not take place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s different this year in that we sent out emails and letters to encourage the contributors who have done so in the past to consider doing so again, even without the luncheon,” Fiala said. “And I am just so impressed and feel so fortunate to be in a community that continues to support, even when we can’t do the sort of events that we normally would.”
Fiala said she’s grateful for the contributors who have continued to sponsor the event, which includes First State Bank and Trust, KHUB, Methodist Fremont Health, Sid Dillon Chevrolet, Valmont Industries and WholeStone Farms.
“I think people understand that the work of keeping kids motivated, keeping kids learning, keeping kids active, preparing them and being ready for when they go to school, that work needs to continue,” she said. “And so the fundraising, therefore, needs to continue to support that.”
The United Way is also looking for community support, as the annual cost of the program is $24,000. Contributors can sponsor the program by texting HATS to 41444, visiting the United Way’s website or mailing a check to Fremont Area United Way, 445 E. First St., Fremont, NE 68025.
The cost to send 12 books is $30, so a whole year that a child would receive books for just that expense,” Fiala said. “So we really encourage people to contribute $30 and then know that some child in the community is getting books for a whole year.”
Fiala said the United Way finds children in need of books with referrals from its nonprofit partners, including Lutheran Family Services and LifeHouse.
Most times, including when a family is limited on funds or moves often, toys and books might not be a possibility, Fiala said.
“You have to think, too, about families that are impacted with a loss of income due to COVID, families that lost their basement and all the toys in it because of flooding,” she said. “So for lots of reasons, it seems extra important that we make sure that we get books to kids right now.”
Fiala said the Imagination Library’s work is so important, and she was glad to have support from the Fremont community.
“It seems that we can’t do too much of this work,” she said, “so it’s a collaborative effort within the community, from the schools, from the library, from United Way, from all of us to make sure that there are many options as to how kids have books in their home and books in their hands.”